Durham, United States, Sep 29 – What they lack in chemistry they make up for in drive: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are determined to stand united for the sake of defeating Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the former Democratic primary rivals teamed up in a bid to charm America’s youth, as recent polls showed Clinton’s lead slip dramatically among voters aged 18-34. They are a demographic that proved key to both of US President Barack Obama’s presidential wins.
Clinton is hoping that millennial whisperer Sanders can up her street cred among young voters — a tall order the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont has taken on.
“Is everybody here ready to transform America?” asked Sanders at a University of New Hampshire rally amid heavy applause.
Sanders won legions of young followers in his bitter primary battle against Clinton, who he ultimately endorsed to the disdain of some of his most ardent supporters.
“This election is enormously important for the future of our country,” the 75-year-old told the rally. “It is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.”
But while millennials flocked to Sanders as he pledged to fight income inequality and provide free state university education, Clinton has struggled to appeal to young voters even after ousting her primary opponent.
The latest Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton at just 31 percent among the key demographic, a razor-thin lead over Republican Trump’s 26 percent. Third-party Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson jumped from 16 percent in August to 29 percent in September — prompting hand-wringing among the Democrats less than six weeks before the November 8 vote.
After warmly embracing Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton said she was “proud of the primary campaign Bernie and I ran, based on issues not insults.”
“Bernie and I are excited about what we can do together.”
– Millennial abstention –
Speaking to students who pay upwards of $28,000 annually in tuition at the University of New Hampshire, the pair focused on Clinton’s education plan, which was largely inspired by Sanders’s primary platform.
Sanders praised Clinton’s project to eliminate tuition at in-state public universities for families making less than $125,000, as well as expanding loan forgiveness programs and interest payment breaks.
“I can assure you,” Sanders said, “make no mistake about it, that I will work with president Clinton to make sure that this legislation is passed as quickly as we possibly can.”
Among the crowd stood Celeste Souza, who estimates she will finish her biomedical science degree more than $100,000 in debt. Like many of her peers, the 20-year-old voted for Sanders in the primary election.
“He just stole our hearts,” Souza said. And of Clinton? “People’s opinions of her were already formed,” the university student said.
“The campaign against Bernie Sanders burned some bridges,” said Tyrell Jackson, a 30-year-old registered Democrat and MBA student at Fayetteville State University.
“It’s going to take her some time to rebuild those bridges with younger people.”
About 20 million Americans less than 30 years old voted in 2012 — just 45 percent of them — according to a US Census Bureau study.
Some 72 percent of those older than 65 turned out — more than 30 million people, many of them conservative.
In a radio interview that aired Wednesday, Obama urged US voters to shy away from alternative candidates.
“If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump,” he added, referring to Libertarian contender Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
“My legacy’s on the ballot,” Obama said, trying to mobilize the voters who elected him twice. “You know, all the work we’ve done over the last eight years is on the ballot.”